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Tech incentives can drive workers back to the office

 Office landlords and commercial real estate tenants are doing whatever they can to get employees to return to the office full-time, including providing technology incentives, which remains a big challenge, Proptech reports.

Currently, central business districts such as New York and San Francisco are having trouble reaching 50 percent office attendance three days a week. Property technology (proptech) companies are trying to make coming back to the office more convenient, and potentially more desirable, for workers who’ve become accustomed to doing their duties at home.

For example, proptech company SwiftConnect simplifies office access by linking access control systems and other technology to streamline credentialing for companies and CRE owners. The platform automates workers’ building access through their phone so they don’t have to keep showing identification or fill out forms when they want to enter the property.

“It gives permissions to get into the places that you need to do work, at the times that you need to, from street to seat,” SwiftConnect co-CEO, president and co-founder Matt Kopel told Commercial Observer.

Since SwiftConnect was founded in 2020, the company has seen rapid growth and deployed employee badges and mobile identification in mobile devices at several dozen “trophy” buildings across the U.S. and the United Kingdom, Commercial Observer reports. Properties include the Silverstein Properties’ 7 World Trade Center in Manhattan. BXP and Bridge Commercial Real Estate are also SwiftConnect partners.

“Tenants want a better experience for their employees as they return to the office,” Brandon Arcement, chief commercial officer at SwiftConnect, told Commercial Observer. “They want to make that access experience more digital, more self-service and on-demand than it was in 2019 to meet the needs of their affluent, high-end employee populations.”

Making it easier to access an office is one way to entice employees back but it will likely take more than one solution for success, which landlords and tenants are working tirelessly to find.

“I think the biggest challenge — or I think the exciting opportunity — is what’s going to be the new behavior around office,” Adam Segal, co-founder and CEO of Cove, a Washington D.C.-based company that consolidates tenant experience, operations and key performance data for office and multifamily, told Commercial Observer. “Because obviously, it doesn’t apply to everyone. Some people want to exclusively work at home, some people want to exclusively work in the office, but it’s a bell curve. Most everyone falls in the middle.

“It’s incumbent upon the employer to differentiate themselves and help deliver that aspect of work in order to show what it means to work for a company. Otherwise, it’s very hard to wrap your arms around Company X versus Y. Companies themselves lose a certain level of identity.”

Meanwhile, some large proptech companies believe that integrating software beyond building access will lead to more workers returning to the office as they’ll be able to interact more easily.

“We sell our software to heads of real estate, heads of HR, or CEOs of enterprise companies, and small and medium businesses,” said Harish Krishna, global head of WeWork Workplace, which provides a platform for businesses to plan and manage their hybrid work as part of coworking company WeWork.

“We’ve seen over 60 percent increase in terms of people coming into the office when they use software like this, where they can see who else is in the office and how to better plan their visit. To be sure that when they come into the office that they have a seat reserved for them and then everyone they have to meet and collaborate with is also going to be in the same location.”

Asset software company VTS recognized the combination of easy access and maximum workplace flexibility can lead to bringing workers back to office and created VTS Activate, Commercial Observer reports. The platform is geared to provide the end user with tech-enabled software to control their everyday tasks, according to Prasan Kale, managing director of tenant experience at VTS. Kale noted that perks like ice cream socials are no longer enough to guarantee employs will come to the office.

“It can’t be infotainment,” Kale said. “You have to deliver real functional value and give the user what they need today in a post-COVID era.”

Proptech gives tenants and landlords the ability to measure the delivery of such functional value, according to Kale.

“The evidence is in the data, where buildings deploy our technology and we see the high-functional operations capabilities being deployed,” he said. “So, when we deploy this technology, the byproduct is a bunch of exhaustive data that you can look at, including occupancy trends. Then match them to the investment that the landlord is making in getting people back to the office. The proof is in the very high figures on the (lease) renewals.”

 

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